Chapter 22, Part 2
HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
By John Bermont. Internet edition.
A page from
with photographer and author
You have to live somewhere. Why not Europe?
Moving to Europe is the easy part. Facing the challenges of living there is another story.
Living in Europe is unlike living in America in so many ways. It's easier to
mention those things that are the same. Off-hand the only thing I can think of is that
we breath the same air, but even that could be debated.
As mentioned in the first part of this chapter I have lived in Holland, France,
Germany, and Switzerland. Some of this was single and some married with child.
Altogether it comes to about 5 years on the ground — shopping for groceries, walking to school,
driving to work, traveling, relaxing, etc., etc.
This web page will open up the practical subjects that you need to know if
you are planning to live in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Geneva, or
any city in Europe. When you know how "the system" works over there
you will save yourself time, money, and plenty of aggravation. That
aggravation is the thing that you will remember most.
Presumably you have already read the first part of this chapter. If not I suggest that
you start at
Moving to Europe.
Once you arrive there are a number of things to get settled
right away. First off you are going to need replacements for the
refrigerator, TV, and other electrical necessities you did not
bring over to Europe. All of that American 110 volt equipment would have
been fast fried on the 220 volt electricity in Europe. See chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe:
Travel Voltage Fundamentals, for details.
Since the ocean shipment of your household furniture will take three to six weeks
to arrive, you are going to be living in a hotel and eating out
initially. Start shopping the major department stores in your
vicinity for the things you need.
If you are on a company move, your European branch office
probably has special discount deals established with certain
vendors and stores, but they won't tell you unless you ask. Ours
had a deal with an electrical goods store which sold everything
from refrigerators to electric wire, and published a catalog
listing all of it. We picked out the refrigerator and had it
delivered the day after the furniture arrived. Later we went in for
a vacuum cleaner, steam iron, toaster oven, and all the other items. When you
buy, select major brand names so you can get parts and service
when/if you relocate to another country. We bought a great vacuum
cleaner but the company has gone out of business. Buying
replacement bags has been impossible.
Electrical appliances, and virtually everything else, cost more in Europe.
You can buy 220 volt appliances in the USA and ship them over. We did that
for a multi-system TV and saved about 50% of the German price.
You are also going to need electrical service, probably gas
or oil, telephone, cable or satelite TV, and an internet service
provider. Cable internet is less expensive than dial-up phone internet
and is much faster. Talk to your landlord or real estate agent
about these before signing any contracts. He/she should be able to help you out. Also,
talk to your company's relocation or personnel officer, though
these people are not too helpful on such items and are not likely
to have much time to hold your hand. Talk to colleagues in the
office or neighbors for additional help. These new friends are
usually very helpful to new arrivals from the "States."
Permission to Live
You will need a residence permit or visa if you plan to
stay for more than three months. Obtain the application from a
consulate of the country you are going to live in. Get going on
this as soon as possible. Besides your name and other basic data,
the form asks about your arrest record, medical condition, and
means of support while over there.
Good Guy Letter
Before leaving the USA get a letter from your home town Chief of
Police attesting that you are clean. The letter will simply say
that his office has failed to find any record of wrongdoing on your
part. Where I come from it's called a "good guy" letter and it's
all you need, but it costs $20.
Next, get a good health examination. This will prove that
you are not carrying some bugs into the country that will cost the
local health and welfare officers some trouble to control. When I
moved to Holland the major concern there was TB. Get a chest x-ray
and bring the doctor's statement with you.
Even though we went through extensive medical exams prior
to moving to Germany, Elizabeth and I had to go through it again
once we arrived over there. That was $600 our company wasted by
asking us to take the exams here in the first place. A couple of
weeks after my German exam I had to go back for an interview with
the doctor. She was pleased to start the meeting by announcing that
I don't have AIDS or syphilis. I was happy to hear that, but didn't
even know that she was checking.
Also, get a letter from your employer or show some other
documentation that you have the means to support yourself. If you
are working over there, this implies that you also have a work
permit. Your company's personnel office should provide you with the
proper letters to verify your status for the immigration office and
for the labor department.
Where to Apply
Should you mail your application from the USA or just go
over and find the local town administrative offices to submit your
application in person? The foreign government consulate will advise
you on this. In at least some cases you are required to obtain the
permit before going over.
For Holland and Germany I applied after going there. I also think that this is the fastest
way of getting it done. There are always at least two registrations
required. The immigration people want to know who is coming into
the country, and the local police want to know who is living in
town. You are going to need some extra passport photos for all of
As mentioned in chapter 21,
Working in Europe: Travel for Free, you're
still liable for paying US income taxes while in Europe. You're
also still eligible to vote. Contact the nearest American consulate
for information on registering and casting your ballot to cast the
rascals out. You might have better assistance from your political
party which tries to keep its voters voting. The Republican and
Democrat parties have "abroad" organizations to help you vote.
If you are going over to study, a major part of your
belongings may be books instead of furniture and appliances. Books
are small and heavy and you will be tempted to bring them as
luggage. Instead, consider mailing them over.
If you are shipping a lot of books to one address you can
use the USPS "M Bag" and ship up to 66 pounds at a good price.
The price varies by country.
Go to your local post
office and inquire about the "M Bag" and which Customs forms you will
need to fill out in duplicate or triplicate. Have patience.
Postal clerks do not do this every day and are generally clueless
about "M Bags." Recently I had two different clerks
give me completely different information. The second one nearly broke into
sailor's English describing "whoever it was who gave you those forms." My
lips were sealed to prevent another assassination in a US Post Office.
Sending Mail to and from Europe in chapter 19 gives a general rundown on the
mail situation. Also, go to your local post
office after moving to Europe to inquire about mail provisions. Each
country has its own rules.
You will need to change addresses for all your accounts. This can be problematic. The
backroom staff at American banks and credit card companies is definitely bottom of the barrel.
When we moved to Germany I changed all our addresses. I didn't notice that bills stopped
coming for one of Elizabeth's accounts. About a year later I had a call from a collection
agency in Frankfurt. They had paperwork indicating that our address was somewhere in
Africa. We owed the balance, accumulated interest, and penalties. We settled up without paying
the penalties. When I moved to Geneva, Switzerland my American Express bills started going to
Geneva, Wisconsin. I was on top of that and settled with the Amex office in Geneva. Nowadays I
pay electronically through my bank and their on-line systems, but I still get hard copies
mailed to me as backup.
There is a minor inconvenience
which you should be aware of if you subscribe to magazines. The
costs and delivery times will be different in Europe. When you
change your address to Europe, magazines follow one of the
a.) Keep the subscription at its present term and change
the price at the next renewal.
b.) Shorten the subscription period to compensate them for the
extra costs of postage.
c.) Send you a bill for the increased cost on the present
If your magazine is on plan a.) above, sit
down before you open the renewal bill when it arrives. I formerly
subscribed to one of the technical magazines published by McGraw
Hill, "Chemical Engineering." The US domestic rate is $30 per year.
The rate in Europe is $177. Air mail postage is less than the
difference. What do they do with all that money?
Therefore, one of the perks you should negotiate into your
contract is remailing postage for your professional journals and
hobby magazines from your company's home office. This shouldn't be a big
burden for your employer since many companies use a weekly courier
dispatch or express shipment from the home office to their overseas
Shopping for daily necessities in Europe is a bit different
than it is at home. Each country has its own peculiarities and
you'll quickly learn the local customs and rules.
A Few Examples
When we lived in Germany stores closed at 6 pm every day during the week,
except for one day when some of the stores are open later. Even on
that day, it's pretty much impossible to buy bread and milk since
the grocery stores don't follow late closing hours. The restricted
shopping hours were due to German labor laws. The law was changed in
2005 to allow stores to stay open later. Stores in smaller towns are not as
likely to be open late as those in the major cities. On Sunday
almost nothing is open in Germany except in airports and train
Holland is pretty much the same, except that the Albert
Heijn grocery stores are now open until 8 pm every day. And in
beach towns like Zandvoort and Nordwijk you'll find almost
everything open on Sunday throughout the year. Things sure have
changed since my first time living here in the 1970s. The country
was welded shut at 5:59 pm every day and for the full day on Sundays.
In France, stores generally close at 7 pm, though small
Paris markets run by Algerians stay open until 10 pm selling basic
food staples, beer, and essential household items. Bread, but
little else, can be bought on Sunday mornings in Paris. A day
without a fresh baguette would be a bad day. Supermarkets in some
cities are open on Sunday morning.
Instead of using the grocery stores and super markets, it's convenient and
interesting to use the farmers markets in Europe. These are open on
different days in different parts of major cities, or in different
cities in the regions. Ask a neighbor when the market is open, and
where. In Paris my favorite is the market at Place Maubert. In addition
to the produce stands there are small speciality stores for bread, wine,
fish, meats, cheese, and flowers. Wow, what a selection of cheeses!
Though every country has it's own peculiarities as noted,
there are some general ways of doing business which are the same in
Meat, chicken, and fish can be bought
almost "on the hoof," or precut and wrapped in styrofoam trays and
cellophane just like at home. The cost of beef is very high
throughout Europe, and it is usually tough. Cattle are fed on grass and not
corn so there is little fat in the beef. Fat is what gives American
beef most of its flavor and tenderness. Invest in a meat hammer to
tenderize your steaks, then cook them fast on a very hot grill
plate or pan.
Fruits and vegetables are left out in supermarkets so customers can paw
over the goods and pick their own in most countries. Each bin of
apples, broccoli, etc. will have a number. Make a mental note and
go over to the scale, put your bag on the scale, push the button,
and a bar-coded price sticker will spit out. Slap the sticker on
the bag and put it in your cart. Some items like cucumbers,
avocados, etc., are priced by the piece. At small grocers and at stands in
outdoor farmers markets the vendor normally picks out the produce for you.
Keep your hands off the veggies!
Egg sizes in Switzerland are graded by weight, e.g., 55+
grams, 53+ grams, etc. For comparison, extra large eggs from Kroger
in Michigan weigh in at 58 grams in 2012. A few years ago they
were 60 to 65 grams. Free range chicken eggs are also noted on
the package, and cost about 50% more than cooped chicken eggs. In my
local Michigan grocery store eggs from un-cooped hens cost twice as much
as regular eggs, as of 2013.
A Coin for a Cart
Shopping carts generally require that you insert a coin to unlock
the chain holding it to the others. This pretty much eliminates the
need for store owners to go around the block chasing their carts.
Everybody brings the cart back to the rack to retrieve their
coin, equivalent to a dollar or two.
Keep the metric system in mind when
shopping. See chapter 27,
The Metric System in Europe:
Travel with Grams, Meters, Liters, and Celsius. Most items are
priced per kilogram, though some of the more expensive things like
meat and fish can be priced per 100 grams (the same as a hectogram)
or per 500 grams to lessen the sticker shock. Also, 500 grams is
called a pound in some areas but spelled differently. There is no metric name for 500 grams,
and a pound is actually 454 grams. Pricing is always in the local
currency which means that you have to do two calculations to figure
out what it costs in greenbacks per pound.
The Euro, €
In those European Union countries which have adopted the
euro, prices of most items have been given in euros since early
1999. This is really great, saving you the most difficult part of
the currency exchange arithmetic and making it easy to figure out
the cost of things, but painful once you see what they cost.
The euro became the official currency of a dozen nations
and actually went into circulation on January 1, 2002. See
Euro and Other Currencies
In France receipts sometimes still show the amount in the old French
franc as a point of continuity for people who have trouble adapting.
The exchange rate changes continuously. At the moment (May 2012),
the euro is hovering around $1.25 to 1.30.
World economic turmoil will help keep this in constant flux.
Notice that a comma is usually used instead of a decimal point in European prices.
See chapter 26,
Languages, Numbers, Alphabets:
Encounter the Tower of Babel in Europe,
for more details on the subject.
There is much more about shopping in Chapter 23,
Shopping in Europe:
Buy Your Souvenirs, Gifts, and Stuff You Can't Live Without.
If you are living in Europe you probably need to have a bank
account. It is rather simple to do this since most banks are only
too happy to have another customer putting cash in their pockets.
When you sign up, make sure you get information on the full package of
services available, and that you can figure out (in the local
language) how to use them.
It is essential to have an ATM card. These work
just like those at home and let you draw cash from your account
from virtually any bank in virtually any country. But they are not
called ATM cards in Europe. More likely it will be some local
version of euro-card or euro-pass.
European Automatic Teller Machines are almost identical to those in the
USA except that they are not called ATMs. Each country
has its own name in its own language. For example, in Germany they are
often called Geldautomat. Geld is the German word for money. See photos
of some ATMs at Exchange Rates.
Keypads on ATMs rarely have the alpha characters. Memorize your PIN as a number.
Four digits is the standard size of a PIN in Europe.
Besides the usual magnetic strip which we have at home,
European bank cards also have a double hologram featuring the face of some
long hair guy from the last century flipping with the expiration year
of the card. This is a security feature.
Many bank cards also include a "chip." This is a copper spider-like
thingy on the face of the card. With a four digit passcode the chip allows you to use
your bank card to pay at restaurants, train ticket machines, and other
places which do not accept credit cards. The chip is favored by many
merchants who do not like paying commissions to Visa and MasterCard. The
money flows directly from your bank account to the seller's bank account. In
effect, the bank card is a debit card.
Request some checks when you open your bank account. You rarely need these but
now and then they can save you some money since banks often charge
extra if you pay a bill without the normal check. Checks are
not the same as in America. In Europe you pay your bills at the
bank, either automatically or by check.
e.g. your phone bill, include a check which is already made out for
the amount of the bill and payable to the creditors account. So all
you do is fill in your account number, sign it, and take it to your
bank. Sometimes you'll receive a bill without the check form
attached. This is when you need your own checks. You fill in the
creditors account number which is on his bill, his name, name and
BIC number for his bank, and a notation regarding the reason
for the payment, e.g. his invoice number. Bring it to your bank and
it is taken care of. Well, it should be taken care of but sometimes the bank drops
the ball. Follow up in a week with your creditor to make sure they got the money.
You can also have automatic electronic debit for routine bills.
I do this for my international phone bill and for my
internet service provider in Holland. You don't have to do
anything, except to keep an eye on your bills and your account.
Banks also issue credit cards. You can get a local branded
MasterCard or Visa card in most countries. You may find however
that they don't work the same as in America. The charges on our
German MasterCard were automatically deducted from our bank account
every month. The banks do not carry credit balances on which they
would be charging interest. So a credit card appears to be little
more than an extended ATM card. The debit comes from your
account once a month rather than at the time of purchase.
Because credit cards are expensive, few Europeans use them.
Most large and medium size stores, restaurants, hotels, and etc.,
accept payment via your euro-bank card as noted above.
Bank Routing Number, BRN
You'll probably have a need to transfer money between the
USA and your overseas home now and then. This is when you learn a
new term "bank routing number."
When you are transferring money between continents, the
safest and fastest way is to let the banks do it for you. So,
before leaving home for relocation, talk to your bank and verify
the data you need to make sure that everything goes
according to plan.
Every American bank has (a few don't) a bank routing number.
You will find this number imprinted on all your checks, at the
bottom left in front of your account number. You probably never needed this
number for anything unless you pay bills electronically, but the
bankers need it.
In Europe the equivalent to a BRN is a BIC, Bank Identifier Code. This has
not been universally accepted but is standard in the major countries.
Instead of using your account number to direct money to your account you use
your IBAN, International Bank Account Number. This number incorporates your
account number and other information. Your bank's name and address and
BIC and IBAN are all you need to transfer
money into your European account. You can find your BIC and IBAN numbers on
your bank statements.
Find out which bank, usually a monster in New York, your
bank uses for sending their international transfers. In Europe you
might get lucky and find a bank which uses the same monster bank.
This will probably speed your transfers but probably won't save you
any money. The monster bank is going to take a cut no matter what,
and the biggest cut at that. The banks at both ends are also going
to take a cut. It pays to shop around to find the lowest fee, which
will probably be at a medium or small bank since big banks got that
way through tried and proven larceny.
Banks provide a number of other services, many of them not
found in American banks. You can buy auto insurance, for example.
I used my bank in Holland as a stock/commodity broker to buy
and sell on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. And I did it
electronically via an internet connection to the bank's web site.
It is not especially easy getting to know your neighbors.
People will nod or say hello if eye contact is made, but more than
that needs a good reason. When single I spent a lot of time in the
local pubs and had plenty of company. When married I had no time or
interest for that and met almost nobody outside the office. Elizabeth
got to know a few neighbors, primarily through school contacts because
Stephanie was in a German kindergarden.
Chances are that your neighbors will be watching you, and
talking with the other neighbors about you. New arrivals, no matter
where you are on the planet, are the subject of natural human
curiosity. For some of your neighbors this will be the first time
they have seen an actual American person in the flesh. Some will want to
meet you, but shyness and inhibitions will get in the way of most
of them. So the first step must be taken by you, in whatever way you
choose to do it.
A possible opportunity to get introduced can be on New Year's Eve. Traditionally
Europeans stay home on New Year's Eve. Parties in restaurants and bars are rare.
In fact virtually all restaurants and bars
are closed on New Year's Eve in Holland. But at midnight all sparklers and sky
rockets come out and light up the sky. Wow! You have never seen so much fireworks.
Neighbors standing on the street watching
what becomes a de facto war zone actually talk to each other and may invite
each other into their home for a glass of champagne. So get ready with an extra bottle
and glasses and maybe a sweet cake. It could be the beginning of a beautiful
Our family may have been Schwartzsehers (literally
"black watchers") in Germany. Some countries impose a monthly tax
on all residences which have a TV. We never paid this in Germany
because no official asked us to. Several people in my office told
me that we should be paying, but a neighbor told Elizabeth that we
only had to pay if we had more than one TV. We preferred to accept
that interpretation of whatever law there was. Besides, public TV
in Germany for the most part is fit for corpses.
I once saw an American news report which showed a special
British police vehicle equipped with high tech electronic gear and
whose job it was to prowl residential neighborhoods scanning for
TVs by detecting the electronic waves they emitted. If the police
found anyone who had not paid the TV tax the resident had to pay a
stiff fine. George Orwell was ahead of his time.
The first part of this chapter, Moving to Europe,
provided important information about the differences between American
TV broadcasting and the various broadcasting systems used in Europe.
To recap the bottom line, American televisions will not work in Europe
except on USA military bases. You will need a multi-system TV and DVD.
There is a further complication with DVDs and DVD players. The movie makers have
divided the world into 5 regions. All disks and players are coded to a single region.
Disks from the USA will not play on a DVD player sold in Europe, and vice versa.
Pretty clever of those movie makers, eh? Well, they have been outsmarted by
manufacturers selling code free DVD players. The movie makers are surely
trying new technology to thwart this breakthrough, and then it is back to the DVD
manufacturers to get around the new barricades. This technology is moving so fast that
it is not worthwhile to go into it further. Just make sure that your DVD has
specifications for 110/220 volt, 50/60 Hz, NTSC, PAL, SECAN, and is region code free.
Many Americans like to wash their car in the driveway on
Saturday. You'll rarely if ever see this over there. Europeans take
their motor vehicle to the car wash.
Room doors in northern Europe are normally kept closed within the
house. Rooms which are not used much are not heated because of the
high cost of gas and oil. You can catch a case of the shivvers in
Holland every winter morning just going to the bathroom. A colleague
in Germany commented once that his neighbor kept his doors open,
and he said it in a disapproving way. On the other hand, blinds are
often kept open. When you walk past a house in Holland you can often see
straight through to the garden because many houses have a
combination living room and dining room with huge windows on each.
Residential doors in France have locking systems which
remind you of bank vaults. The closest I have seen to Paris home
fortifications are those in New York City. Nevertheless, the
burglars often get in.
On moving out, renters in Switzerland are responsible for
leaving the apartment in such a condition that new renters can move
in within minutes. If not, the cost can be as bad as everything
else in Switzerland.
On moving out of our house in Germany the owner demanded new
wallpaper throughout the house. The ugly
stuff we tolerated for 2½ years was probably there for
decades. We didn't know about a clause in the lease requiring us to
leave new wallpaper. But I didn't sign the lease anyway. My company
did and they were responsible. I still don't understand this. Six
months earlier we had asked the landlord about changing the
wallpaper and he replied something to the effect that "Why do you
want to do that? You are leaving soon anyway." This was the first
indication that our three year transfer was going to be less than
three years. The company told the landlord long before they ever
intended to tell us.
Getting reconnected to the internet in Europe has been one
of my biggest hassles. In Holland in the late 1990s I subscribed to a
local dial-up internet service provider (ISP) for about the same cost as
back in California. However, the Dutch phone company
charges by the minute for all calls. There is no "local calling
area" in which the calls are pegged by call, not time. Thus, an
hour on the internet can cost one or two dollars depending on the
time of day. Since it's easy to spend several hours on line and
phone bills come every two months, you can be shocked with
a phone bill of several hundred dollars.
From Switzerland I planned to stay for only a
couple of months so I did not get a local ISP. Instead I would dial
my ISP in California during the lowest cost dialing period, quickly
download my email, and then hang up. I would compose new email off
line, dial, sign on, send, and sign off - just about that quick.
So the way to go for internet service is cable or DSL, if one of those services
is available in your neighborhood. Because of the nature of the technologies
involved, cable and DSL are only available where the local authorities have
allowed it and where the providers have determined that they can make a fortune
after making the hardware and installation investment. Talk with a neighbor
to see what is available.
The problem of garbage disposal has become one of worldwide
environmental concern. Too much stuff is being thrown away and
there is a growing need for waste reduction, althogh McVomit prides itself
on generating more branded paper cups and wrappers than any other organization
on the planet. Garbage dumps, now
termed waste disposal sites, are filling up and new ones are
difficult to install due to environmental permitting hurdles.
Something must be done to halt the amount of refuse generated.
Europe is just as aware, if not more so, of this problem
than any community in America. Our experience in Germany was very
interesting. We had eight separate containers for household waste
by the time we left in mid 1993. The objective was to recycle as
much as possible. We segregated all paper, plastic, clear glass,
brown glass, green glass, Bioabfall (biologically degradable
waste), and batteries for recycle or special handling. Everything
else went into the "garbage." The main reason was that our city had
run out of space in the local landfill and could not get approval
to install an incinerator due to strict environmental regulations
and the nimby syndrome. All waste which could not be recycled had
to be hauled about 300 miles east to another landfill. This was
very expensive so the recycling program was instituted.
In practice, we had various containers for each waste and
different collection schedules for each. Once a month the paper and
plastic were collected. I had to take the cans and glass to special
containers set up around the city. Every grocery store parking lot
had containers for different colored glass and cans. You'll see these
glass and paper recycling bins prominently located thoughout most of Europe.
MOVING BACK HOME
After living in Europe, leaving is likely to bring on mild
trauma. Arriving home in the USA is going to be a let-down, and
give you a few shocks.
Just as when you left the USA, you'll have to send out
change of address cards, get a mover or do it yourself, disconnect
the telephone and utilities, clean house and settle up with the
landlord, say your good-byes, and go to the airport. I write this
matter-of-factly, but leaving is an extremely unpleasant thing for
me to do.
My first departure, from Holland after two years of living
there, was an event. I let my friends know I was having a going
away party at my favorite brown bar, scheduled for the night before
my flight home. After packing up my apartment into eight oak
barrels and delivering it all to the dock in Rotterdam, I checked into a hotel
owned by the father of a good friend. Then I went to the bar and
the party began. I woke up the next morning well past departure
time for my flight. I went back to the pub, whose owners Jan and
Ellie were surprised to see me, and learned that I still owed
about $50 from the night before. The total bill had come to about
$200, but that was in 1975 guilders and a significant sum in those
days. I rescheduled my flight for two days hence and scheduled
another going away party. This was not as extravagant, but I would
have missed the plane again had my friend not awakened me, almost
carried me to his car, stuffed me in, and drove me to the airport.
Our family departure went a bit smoother. Before leaving
Germany we took the maximum one-month vacation in the company car.
On returning to Aschaffenburg after the long drive back from
Istanbul I made reservations and we were on the plane the next
day. We were still a bit tired from the trip and our going away
party was a quiet affair with our best German friends on the
evening before our departure.
Don't forget to have your phone disconnected, and unplug
all the accounts you set up, if need be. You will probably want to
keep your bank account at least until your tax affairs over there
When you return home after a couple of years out of the
country, things look the same but have a different complexion. You
have another perspective, and comparisons with your European
experiences are always creeping into your thoughts.
One of the striking things is that you can understand conversations
There are two major changes that you can do little about.
The cost of auto insurance is much higher and you have a good chance
of going on the unemployment roles.
Everything else being equal, one thing that may cause a lot
of grief on return is signing up for auto insurance again. If
you've been out of the country for six months or more, you'll be
treated as a new customer.
You start to feel like you're
at the beginning of the evolutionary chain when dealing
with auto insurance salesmen. One way to make it easier and less
expensive is to obtain a notarized statement from your European
auto insurance company that you had no accidents or claims. You
might also try to get a statement from the agency issuing drivers
licenses that you had no violations.
It would be a good idea to find out what your insurance
company's policy is before going over. You might be better off
storing your car in a neighbor's back yard and paying for minimal
insurance while you are out of the country. Otherwise, no matter
how long you had insurance before you went overseas, you'll
probably be treated as though you never had it when you come back.
As mentioned in chapter 21,
Working in Europe: Travel for Free (so here is a
redundancy worth taking note of), another thing that may affect you
is a new perspective in your job — if you thought that you had one to return to.
Things kept changing while you were
out of the country, and since you were not around you were not figured
into the equations.
Both of my returns have been met with
less than enthusiasm back in the home office. On returning from
Holland, I lasted about three months before being laid off. The engineering
and construction business is variable. On
returning from France, I wasn't laid off because I was
self-employed at the time. Then the problem was to re-establish client
contacts. It took a few months before I landed another contract.
The office had been reorganized with a new manager during my two years in
Germany. I was soon out and started my own engineering consulting business again.
That led to new opportunities in Southern California, Arabia, Africa, and
My reading indicates that these experiences are not unique. It is reported that
something like 25% of all Americans sent overseas by their
employers either quit or are terminated within the first year of
returning to the USA. Of our group of 7 transferred to Germany, 4
were on the street within a year of the end of their overseas
Use this information to keep yourself alert to changes in
yourself and/or your company so that you can be prepared for the
high probability of a new job. Be especially alert to changes in
management back home. If your boss has moved on, you are probably
on the same track.
This chapter is in two parts due to its large size. Now you can click to Part 1 to see about
the moving to Europe project.
Moving to Europe
Moving to Europe. Getting prepared, ex-pat assistance, moving your automobile, household items,
electrical appliances, lamps, TV, telephone, fax machine, computers, single status, family status,
moving day, finding a home, furnished or unfurnished, the lease.
This is Part 2
Living in Europe
Living in Europe. Getting settled, appliances, utilities, official business,
residence permit, good guy letter, health exam, financial fitness, student issues, mail,
shopping, metric system, banking, ATMs, checks, credit cards, bank routing number,
money transfers, television, internet, garbage, moving back home, you're fired.
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to
Europe that have not been covered well enough in this chapter do not hesitate to write and ask.
My email address is
When you write please include as much detail as possible. There are about 50 countries in Europe.
It will help me answer if you mention the countries and/or cities and the weeks you plan to visit.
I will reply in a day or two.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. The other 29 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE
are also available, free to read on line. In addition, the Google search box below can locate specific subjects
in any chapter or page on site.
For a check-off punchlist of everything go to The Finale,
Packing List and Last Call: For Travel in Europe
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the URL link to him or her. To easily do that, click your "File" tab in the tool bar and scroll down to
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Note: Italicized notations by the author.
You will need one or more of these plug adapters for your appliances and chargers.
For details on electricity in Europe see chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe: Travel Voltage Fundamentals
Plug Adapter (doubler)
Universal to Continental Europe "Europlug."
4.0 mm prongs
SIMRAN PLUG ADAPTER
Adapts grounded USA plugs to European "Shucko" plug.
4.8 mm prongs
This is a universal plug adapter for the UK and Ireland.
Grounded Adaptor Plug for Britain and Ireland
This series of "3-Pack" Ceptics brand grounded universal plug adapters is handy if you are carrying multiple
gizmos or if you have travel companions who also need a charge.
Britain and Ireland
This 110-250 volt power surge strip has three universal outlets and an American grounded plug
so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
Make sure your gizmos are rated for 110-240 volts.
SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.
For charging up to six gizmos at a time use this 250 volt universal
power strip. It comes with a grounded Continental plug.
6 Universal Outlets
220/240 Volt 50/60Hz
If your gizmos charge through a USB port this can keep you going. European cars have the same
12 volt system as American cars.
Scosche Dual USB
Bausch and Lomb 2X Folding Lighted Magnifier
Absolutely the best battery for digital cameras which use AA batteries.
AA Lithium Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are expensive but pay for themselves over and over.
This charger is good for worldwide voltage and comes with 4 pre-charged batteries.
It requires a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
Sanyo SEC-MQN064 Eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable Batteries
with Worldwide 110-240 volt charger
This kit includes a pair of rechargeable batteries with a USB powered charger.
SANYO NEW 1500 eneloop 2-AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries
w/ USB Charger
This is a stronger transformer rated for 200 watts.
Transformer - 200 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
Here is the whale of transformers, 3,000 watts. With this you can bring your power tools and
all of your small appliances, but not your TV, to Europe.
Power Bright VC3000W Voltage Transformer 3,000 Watt Step Up/Down 110 Volt - 220 Volt
This digital volt-ohm meter can answer a lot of questions when you have electrical problems.
Sinometer MAS345 PC-Interfaced Digital Multimeter
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.
These appliances require a plug adapter(s), NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting.
Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer
Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Travel Hair Setter
SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment
For light sleepers here is an international "white noise" machine. Includes a Continental
Marsona TSCi-330 White Noise Travel Sound Conditioner For both USA and International Use
For coffee or tea in your room, without waiting or paying for room service.
Lewis N. Clark Immersion Heater 120/240V
Look sharp and be comfortable.
Hot Chillys Women's Peach Skins Solid T-Neck Shirt
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Weather protection and extra pockets.
Clarks Women's Wave.Run Slip-On
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
I wore one similar to this on my early spring trip to London and Dublin.
Leather Bomber Jacket
My "standard" shirt for off-season travel in Europe.
Kingsize Big & Tall Turtleneck Long-Sleeve Cotton Shirt
My favorite T-shirt/undershirt has a pocket for securely carrying passport, cash, and credit cards.
Hanes Heavyweight Tagless Pocket Tee
New Casual Grey Herringbone Wool Cap
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Travelpro Luggage WalkAbout LITE 4 Deluxe Tote
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
eBags Small Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
Wear a money belt under your shirt to protect your passport and valuables, especially if you are staying in hostels or dorms.
Victorinox Deluxe Concealed Security Belt
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places.
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
I used the Dutch version of Rosetta Stone. These programs are intense and complete.
German Level 1-2 Set
French Level 1
Italian Level 1
Who wrote this?
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